CLAYTON — The St. Louis County Library can build its $20 million genealogy center and administrative building in Frontenac, a judge ruled on Thursday.
St. Louis County Judge Stanley J. Wallach dismissed a lawsuit filed in July by the city of Frontenac seeking to block construction of the complex at Clayton and Spoede roads.
Lawyers for Frontenac had argued the city had an interest in making sure the complex was safe for the public and that the library should not be permitted to unilaterally decide what constitutes an “appropriate use.”
But lawyers for the library had argued that Frontenac’s suit should be dismissed because the city does not have standing to file it. The library argued that the Missouri Constitution gives it the authority to move forward with construction regardless of local zoning because the library district is a subdivision of the state with power equal to a municipality.
In a 12-page ruling issued on Thursday, Wallach wrote: “While local control of development in a city’s neighborhoods is a recognized and vital component of our legal system, when it comes to the location of public facilities, this important local rule must yield to the exclusive decision-making authority of a districtwide entity that derives power from a constitutional mandate.”
The lawsuit had asked the court to issue a preliminary and permanent injunction stopping the construction “because the district refuses to engage in meaningful discussion about the appropriate use” of the land in question. The proposed $20 million building has faced strong opposition from some area residents, who have complained about the potential impact on traffic and other issues.
“We are disappointed with the Court’s decision today, and we will be reviewing our legal options,” Frontenac Mayor Kate Hatfield said in a statement. “We are hopeful that we will have meaningful and productive dialogue with the new Board of Trustees in the coming weeks and months.”
The library has nearly completed the site preparation for development. The purchased houses on the site have been demolished, trees have been cleared and retaining walls are being built.
In August, St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, asked County Executive Sam Page to remove all five members of the Library Board of Trustees because they were serving on expired terms and “are not responsible to any elected body.” Last week, Page replaced four of the five trustees. He did not give them a mandate to block the project, but rather to work with Frontenac.